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  • So you've seen Scarface, the Public Enemy, Little Ceasar, The Roaring Twenties, and G-Men. You're in the mood for another rat-a-tat-tat 1930's gangster movie, but you think you've seen them all over and over again. Then up pops Let 'Em Have It on a sparkling Classic Media/Sony DVD, and it's just the ticket! This tough, no-nonsense cops and robbers movie, showcasing the newly reorganized FBI's battle against organized crime, parallels Warner Brothers' classic G-Men in theme and presentation. It may therefore seem derivative, but only because G-Men is better known. If fact the two movies were released only two weeks apart in May 1935, which means the two were being filmed at the same time. Apparently neither had any influence on the other.

    In some respects Let 'Em Have It is a better picture than G-Men in spite of a "B" cast and production by a small independent Edward Small with distribution by United Artists. More restrained and therefore more believable than the flamboyant Warner Cagney vehicle, Let 'Em Have It is directed with style and dash by the great Sam Wood. Thankfully the training stage of the three young FBI agents, Richard Arlen, Harvey Stephens, and Gordon Jones, is handled with a few brief scenes instead of taking up a third of the running time as in G-Men. Certainly Arlen is not as dynamic a leading man as Cagney, but he's sincere and quite competent. Jones, usually in a clown role, plays it more straight here with only a few jokes as a character named Tex. But he's serious and deadly when on the trail of the crooks. Stephen's character, an Ivy League type formerly engaged to the leading lady and early intended kidnap victim Virginia Bruce, adds a touch of class to the trio of feds. The gorgeous Ms Bruce is a much better love interest for Arlen than Cagney had for G-Men in frigid Margaret Lindsay. Never mind the action sequences, the gowns worn by the statuesque Virginia Bruce are the excitement in this show! Wow! She could act, too.

    But this picture is carried by Bruce Cabot's performance as the cruel but charismatic leader of the murderous gang of kidnappers and bank robbers. He is totally ruthless, yet capable of acting slick, harmless, and innocent when it suits his purposes. His poor old honest mom, like the mothers of all delinquents still thinks he is "a good boy." Cabot had an occasional lead roll in his long career, most notably King Kong (1933) and Flame of New Orleans (1941). He could handle a good guy roll, but like Mae West, he was much better when he was bad. He's bad, bad, bad in Let 'Em Have It. His rendition of the scummy, amoral, murdering, unredeemed, yet fascinating criminal is up with Cagney in White Heat (1949) and Bogart in The Desperate Hours (1955).

    Every gangster has to have his moll, and Cabot has two here. Joyce Compton is suitably hard-baked, no-class dame as the fatally fashion conscious accomplice in the gang's crime spree. When she gets captured by the cops, her place in the head thug's affections is taken over by a young Barbra Pepper, looking incredibly like a "B" Jean Harlow. Fans of TV screwball comedy series Green Acres will remember the aged Ms Pepper as the "mother" of the world's smartest pig Arnold Ziffel.

    Let 'Em Have It is a well-acted, well-directed, well-filmed crime melodrama, precisely paced with plenty of action, good dramatics, intelligent script, and crisp dialog. While no doubt produced on a low budget, it never looks cheap. Sets are first rate with lots of outdoor scenes, many night scenes. Refreshingly absent is the official voice-over that often mars later police procedure pictures of this type. First rate in every way, it compares favorably to most of the Warner Brothers gangster cycle. Smooth, enjoyable entertainment from Hollywood's classic era.
  • 'Let 'em Have It (1935),' a taut 1930s gangster flick, has since fallen out of all popular recognition, but remains worthwhile viewing – if you can find it – thanks to the capable direction of Sam Wood, an undervalued workman who gave us two Marx Brothers comedies ('A Night at the Opera (1935)' and 'A Day at the Races (1937)') and the wonderful, unforgettable 'Goodbye, Mr Chips (1939).' This particular gangster thriller plays like a good version of Mann's 'Public Enemies (2009)': a group of young men (Richard Arlen, Gordon Jones, Harvey Stephens), having been recruited into the Department of Justice, must bring down murderous bank-robber Joe Keefer (Bruce Cabot), who is crossing the country looting and murdering at will.

    The elegant presence of Virginia Bruce promises some romance for the ladies, but 'Let 'em Have It' is at its best when revelling in the intricate details of forensic procedure, whether it be matching the ballistic markings of a firearm, or reconstructing the profile of an assailant from teeth-marks left in an apple. The heroes occasionally seem like over-excited boy-scouts, especially Eric Linden as Buddy, but Richard Arlen has a quiet, brooding presence that offsets the occasional moments that resemble a thinly-veiled advertisement for Edgar J. Hoover's newly-named F.B.I. As Keefer, Bruce Cabot is also excellent, gradually spinning an innocuous small-time criminal into a murderous outlaw worthy of Dillinger or Baby Face Nelson. There's one scene that precludes the plastic surgery in Delmer Daves' noir 'Dark Passage (1947),' and a bandage unveiling that cannot be missed.
  • "Let 'em have It' was released in 1935, the same year as "G Men" starring James Cagney. Both films celebrate the exploits of law men working for the newly formed FBI under J. Edgar Hoover. Our heroes are played by Richard Arlen, Harvey Stephens, and Gordon Jones, with Virginia Bruce in the female lead.

    The early part is typical of the time, showing the FBI recruits undergoing training in detection methods, shooting skills, etc. The movie gains momentum when they go after vicious gang leader Joe Keefer, very menacingly played by Bruce Cabot. Keefer is on the lam and forces a doctor to change his face by plastic surgery. When the bandages come off - wow! It's worth the price of admission.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    For an independent production (Reliance), this was a superior, hard hitting gangster movie that followed hard on the heels of Warner Bros. "G Men". I first saw it on television in the 60s and I will never forget the shocking sequence when Bruce Cabot agrees to have plastic surgery with disastrous results. The scene were Cabot takes his bandages off - you don't see his face but you see the faces of his gang members as they recoil in horror - it is a truly frightening scene. The movie, directed with flair by the under rated Sam Wood, was highly effective at pitting the FBI investigating methods against the more exciting underworld adventures of Joe Keefer (Bruce Cabot) and his gang.

    After quite an interesting beginning showing the recruitment of ordinary men into the FBI to cope with the growing spread of lawlessness across America - the movie focuses on three men from different walks of life who become friends. The three are advised of a kidnap plan involving socialite Eleanor Spencer (luminous Virginia Bruce), an old girlfriend of Van's (Harvey Stephens). When the plot is foiled and the gang, including the Spencer chauffeur, Joe Keefer, goes to jail, Eleanor pleads for Joe's release, feeling he had nothing to do with it. After he is freed, he then rounds up his gang and goes on a reign of terror throughout the Mid West. Meanwhile Eleanor's younger brother Buddy (Eric Linden) ditches his law studies to become a G man. Eleanor is horrified and blames Mal (dashing Richard Arlen) (she has become romantically involved with him) for not trying hard enough to talk him out of it. The plot is very involving and meticulous, especially Buddy's hunt to find the person who owned the shoe that was left at the scene of one of the holdups. From the very start the action never stops, it seems so realistic - you feel this was how gangsters really operated then. I don't know whether there was any location shooting but the scene where the gangsters were rounded up from their hideout in the woods looked pretty real.

    Bruce Cabot played Keefer with an almost psychotic zeal. He seemed to play a lot of movie heels and it was nice to see him get his comeuppance in this movie after being so horrible to Irene Dunne (in "Ann Vickers") and Helen Twelvetrees (in "Disgraced"). Eric Linden's film career had started with so much promise ("Are These Our Children" (1931)) but by 1933 he was completely fed up with Hollywood and announced his retirement. After a year spent traveling and writing he returned to the screen in "Let 'Em Have It", playing his stock in trade - an idealistic young man who wants to make good.

    Highly, Highly Recommended.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Let Em' Have It- solid 1935 cops and robbers flick.We follow 3 G-men in training thru their first case.A little mix of melodrama and romance slow down the movie at times- but help to add emotion to the final third of the flick.The first case of the G-men is a kidnapping of a rich heiress-partially helped by the family driver.The G-men foil the kidnapping- but the heiress does not believe that the driver was in cahoots with the kidnappers.There is some good action mixed with some swell 30s dialog.The DVD has no extras but is a good transfer(not great but better than public domain classics issued by small-time outfits - since this one was re-released by Sony).Bruce Cabott excels as Keefer the family driver who decides to go into robbing banks-mixing charisma with anger and smarts he gives the G-men a good adversary.Worth renting for fans of classic gangster flicks. B
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The film begins with a class of rookie FBI* agents going through their boot camp. Soon, three of the guys become friends and are soon assigned to work together (how likely is this?). They're investigating a man the agency thinks is part of an organized crime ring, Joe Keefer (Bruce Cabot) and they soon end up arresting him. What's next? See the film for yourself.

    "Let 'em Have It" is a decent film but it suffers from a big problem. During the course of the movie, Agent Mal Stevens (Richard Arlen) falls in love with Eleanor Spencer (Virginia Bruce) and you have little reason to understand WHY. Sure, she's beautiful but she's also spoiled, obnoxious and sees very little value in the work these federal agents do. She even begs Mal to talk her brother** out of joining the force. Plus, when they catch her chauffeur with a stolen gun and tell her he's part of a gang, she fights them and convinces the parole board to release him (and he then goes on a reign of terror!). So, why would a dedicated agent want anything to do with her? And, why would a writer construct such a ridiculous relationship?! Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy! Without a few of these bad scenes, the film could have earned a 7 or 8.

    On the positive side, it was a neat movie because of its very, very extensive use of forensics to solve crime. Using a some footprints, an apple and a glove, the experts are able to come up with a great idea of what a suspect looks like--and it's believable. Most old crime films rarely talk about such things and it's nice to see that "CSI", "Bones", "NCIS" and many other new shows are NOT the first to look at this side of an investigation--and that the techniques are NOT all brand-new and high tech. It was also nice to have some very competent actors--better than you might expect from a B-movie. Simply put, apart from the dumb and poorly written relationship between Arlen and Bruce, it was a pretty good film.

    By the way, I noticed a couple reviewers seemed to think this film was better than the Jimmy Cagney film "G-Men"--also from 1935 and with similar subject matter. I simply didn't see this. While "Let 'em Have It" is awfully good for a small budgeted film from a tiny studio, it's not even close to the quality and entertainment level of "G-Men"...not even close.

    *Oddly, I don't think they used the terms FBI or Federal Bureau of Investigation once during the film.

    **It's funny, but when this scene occurred where Eleanor begs Mal to dissuade her brother from joining the force, I turned to my wife and said 'the brother will soon be dead!'--and, not surprisingly, he was! What a silly and poorly telegraphed plot element--and another bit of lousy writing. To make it worse, the young man is told NOT to go near the gangsters' hideout but does anyway--getting himself killed in the process! Duh...
  • Richard Arlen joins the G-men. He meets and loves Virginia Bruce after he rescues her from a kidnapping plot. The gang includes her chauffeur, Bruce Cabot, but Miss Bruce does not believe it. She gets him paroled and he soon goes on a bank-robbing spree with a new gang.

    Although Arlen and Bruce head the cast, more time is spent with Cabot and his murderous thugs. It's certainly more cinematic to show a window heaved through a bank window and the robbers racing than the scene where the dentist comes in with a cast of teeth made from a half-eaten apple. Come to think of it, why do so many movies have a rock thrown through the window at bank robberies? Does one of the tellers keep them on hand for that?

    The scenes showing the routines of training and investigation by the FBI are the sort of thing that director Sam Wood liked. Although he could turn his hand to anything from Marx Brothers comedies to weeper like MADAME X, his strongest movies were movies about people doing their jobs and glad to have them.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Let 'em Have It" is a mis-titled story of the training and exploits of three Department of Justice (not FBI..J.Edgar must have not given his approval) Investigation Branch agents: Mal Stevens (Richard Arlen), Van Remessler (Harvey Stephens) and Tex Logan (Gordon Jones). Eleanor Spencer, a socialite, is an acquaintance of Van who introduces her to Mal at a party. Val takes an interest. Of course, it doesn't matter that Eleanor is filthy rich and has a loopy Aunt Ethel (Alice Brady) as well.

    The Spencer family chauffeur Joe Keefer (Bruce Cabot) laments to his parents (J. Farrell MacDonald, Bodil Rosing), about his station in life and that he plans to be rich like the Spencer's some day. Keefer engineers a kidnap attempt of Eleanor but it is foiled by the G-Men. Keefer is jailed for his part in the crime. He later escapes and forms a gang with the likes of Harry Woods and Paul Fix, that terrorizes the country with a series of bank hold-ups.

    Meanwhile, Eleanor's brother Buddy (Eric Linder) joins the G-men much to the dismay of Eleanor. Buddy trails Keefer's moll Lola (Dorothy Appleby) to a rooming house where the gang is hiding out, unbeknownst to him. The green rookie Buddy is caught by Keefer and murdered. The gang then flees to a rural hide-out.

    Keefer attempts to have his facial features altered by a plastic surgeon after which the surgeon id killed. He has the last laugh when upon removing the facial bandages, Keefer discovers the wily old doctor had etched Keefers initials on his face. The feds manage to capture Lola and fool her into revealing the location of the gang's hide out.

    The G-men close in on Keefer and his gang and...............................................

    A period piece to be sure and not unlike James Cagney's "G-Men" released the same year. Arlen was no Cagney giving a wooden performance as the chief agent. I was surprised to Gordon Jones in the picture. I didn't think his career went back that far. He couldn't have been more than in his early twenties at the time.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    You'd almost think J. Edgar Hoover himself directed this propaganda movie for his newly-formed FBI. In fact it was self-appointed Redbaiter Sam Wood, whose social and political views were almost identical to those of the FBI chieftain. And boy it shows. Wood's view of society is pretty clear-cut: you have decent, morally upstanding folk and hardened, unrepentant nogoodniks. That Bruce Cabot's character belongs to the latter category becomes clear when he tells his parents that his social aspirations aim higher than lifelong service as the family chauffeur. Of course social mobility is always suspect, people should know and keep their place in society and be content with it. Not only that, but as Richard Arlen's G-man states, Cabot also looks like a criminal! That's proof enough for our FBI boys to suspect him of kidnapping plans, and of course they're proved right. In fact, in the entire movie they're always on the right track, there's no point in trying to outsmart these guys. Why do those villains even bother? Well, because they're not just dumb, but downright evil, so the only cure is to let 'em have it. Depending on one's political views, you can either applaud or reject this movie,but i'm sure there are plenty of people who can enjoy this as an old-time gangster drama. I sure couldn't.